Mrs May’s Government suffered one defeat at the hands of Remainer MPs rally following yesterday’s near-miss.
But the Prime Minister narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat on an amendment which would have forced ministers to begin negotiating a customs union arrangement with Brussels if negotiators were unable to strike a free trade deal by January 21, 2019.
MPs voted by 301 to 307 against including the customs union amendment – known as New Clause 18 – in the Brexit Trade Bill.
But the Government did lose a separate Trade Bill vote this evening after MPs supported a Tory backbench amendment which will compel the UK to try and negotiate continued membership of the European medicine regulation framework.
Cheers were heard in the Commons after the Tory backbench amendment linked to medicines, New Clause 17, was approved by 305 votes to 301 – a majority of four. It marked the Government’s first defeat on the Trade Bill.
The vote on an amendment relating to the customs union had the support of leading Remainers including Dominic Grieve, Nicky Morgan and Stephen Hammond.
But after a close vote, the Government managed to narrowly avoid defeat.
Before the vote, Sky News political correspondent Jon Craig reported Remainer MPs as claiming they “have the numbers” to force continued membership of a customs union.
He said: “In the past hours, those in the Stephen Hammond camp, Nicky Morgan, claim ‘we have the numbers’. They reckon they’ve got the numbers to defeat the Government. Remember they were only three short in the vote last night.
“Now a senior member of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, one of his closest allies, told me ‘yes, we’ve got the numbers’.”
Despite avoiding defeat on the customs union amendment, the Government did lose on a separate amendment which will compel ministers to negotiate continued membership of Europe’s drug regulation framework.
New Clause 17, tabled by former justice minister Phillip Lee, says the Government must “take all necessary steps” to strike a Brexit trade deal which would see the UK stay a member of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The EMA, currently based in London, will relocate to Amsterdam after Brexit and is charged with assessing the effectiveness of new medicines before EU sale.
It also monitors the safety of products already on the market.
After the vote, Mr Lee said the amendment would help “secure drugs for patients for the NHS”.